29. Fr. Ambrosio


To the Reverend Father Ambrosio Mariano, of St. Benedict, Carmelite.

Father Mariano was one of the first founders of the reform. On account of his great talents he was employed by King Philip II. in many important affairs of state. It seems by this letter, that he had been requested by Father Olea, a Jesuit, to write to St. Teresa in favour of a novice, whom the Saint’s own Religious had refused to profess, because they did not consider her fit for their Order. In this letter the Saint displays great tact, judgment, and firmness, and by various powerful reasons she tries to convince Father Mariano that it would be wrong to comply with his request. Other matters are also discussed, which clearly show us what rare talents the saint had for business, and with what prudence and good sense her advice was always seasoned. Date, 1576. Carta XXVIII. Spanish ed.

JESUS. MARY. The grace of the Holy Spirit be with your Reverence.

It clearly appears that your Reverence is not aware of my obligations to Father Olea, and of the affection I have for him, since you write to me respecting an affair of which he has already spoken to me, and still speaks about. I think you know I am not ungrateful, and therefore I assure your Reverence, that if this business could have been accomplished by the loss of my health and rest–it should have been done. But when it is a matter of conscience, no friendship is sufficient, because I owe more to God than to any one else.

Would to God there were no other inconvenience than not having a dowry, for your Reverence knows well (and if not, you may be informed), how many Religious there are in our monasteries, without any fortune; but five hundred ducats is a good sum, and with this she might become a religious in any convent. Father Olea does not know the nuns of our houses, and hence I am not surprised at his incredulity. But I, who am convinced they are the servants of God–I, who know too the purity of their souls, do not believe they would ever deprive a person of the habit, without they had sufficient reasons for doing so, for I know the scruples they are accustomed to have in things of this nature. As they were resolved not to admit her, they must have had good reasons. Moreover, as we are so few, the trouble which such persons give, when they are unfit for the Order, is so very great, that even a wicked conscience would be scrupulous in admitting such; with how much greater reason, then, would a soul refuse, who wishes not to displease our Lord in anything. I beg your Reverence to tell me how I can force the sisters to receive a person, if they refuse her their votes? No superior can possess such power.

Do not imagine that Father Olea has a personal interest in this matter, for he tells me she is no more to him than a stranger in the street. My sins have caused him to think of exercising his charity in an affair which cannot be accomplished; and I am very sorry I cannot serve him therein. Even were the thing feasible, it would not certainly be showing any kindness to the young woman, to make her live amongst people who had no regard for her. I have done more than was reasonable in this matter, as I have obliged the nuns to keep her another year, much against their will, in order to try her a little more; and that when I shall pass through Salamanca and go to the convent in which she is, I may be informed of everything about her. This I have done to oblige Father Olea, and that he may be more satisfied. I know well the Religious do not tell lies; and your Reverence also must know, that lying, even in trivial matters, is abhorred by our sisters.

Your Reverence must also know, that it is no new thing for novices to leave our houses; this is very common; hence she will not lose anything by saying, that her health would not allow her to support the rigour of our Order; and I have never known any one lose her good name by leaving our Houses.

This affair will teach me henceforth to consider well beforehand what I do. For example, the lady recommended to us by Señor Nicolao cannot be received, though she would receive your approbation, for I know from another quarter she is not a proper subject; and I do not wish to make enemies, in order to please my friends and supporters.

It seems strange your Reverence should ask me why I began to speak on the matter at all. We should never receive any Religious, if we did not first correspond on the subject. And besides, I spoke about it, because I was desirous of obliging Señor Nicolao. But I was told things quite different from the truth, as I afterwards learnt; and I am sure he is more solicitous for the welfare of our Houses than for the good of any one person; for this reason he did not insist on the lady being received.

I beg of your Reverence, for the love of God, not to trouble yourself any more about this matter; for as she has a good fortune, she may easily be received in some other convent: this will be much better for her, than to enter our Order, where, as the sisters are so few, they ought all to be select. And if hitherto we have not been so particular in this respect with regard to some, whose names could easily be mentioned, we have acted thereby so ill that we shall take more pains for the future. Do not be the cause of our quarrelling with Señor Nicolao, for his request will certainly be refused.

Your Reverence made me smile by saying, that you could tell her character by only seeing her. But we women are not so easily known; for, after having been for so many years under the direction of our confessors, they are often surprised to see how little they know about us. This proceeds from our not knowing how to confess our faults properly, and confessors only judge of us by what we tell them. In a word, my father, when you wish to bestow any favours on our Houses, recommend proper subjects to us,1 and your Reverence will see we shall not quarrel about the dowry. But if they should not be suitable for our Order, I cannot be of service to you in anything,

Your Reverence should know that I consider it very easy to have a house here for the accommodation of religious men; and I believe it would not be difficult (even without its being a monastery) to obtain leave to have mass said there, just as leave is often given to a private gentleman who has an oratory in his house. I have mentioned this to our father:2 but he replied–”I must not think of such a thing, for it would injure the undertaking.” I think he was right: and as your Reverence now knows what he wishes, you should not allow so many Religious to be together, and much less prepare a church for them, as if you had obtained leave: this has made me laugh. As for myself, I should not even purchase a house, if I had not the permission of the bishop. As I had not taken this precaution at Seville, you know what it cost me. I often told your Reverence not to do anything, without having obtained a letter from the Nuncio to give you permission.

When Don Gerónimo told me you were going to see the Calced 3 Fathers, I was quite surprised. I am far from having (at least just now) the same confidence in them that your Reverence seems to have. I do not allude to Valdemoro 4 only. I suspect him much, for I believe he is not at all well disposed towards us; for, under the mask of friendship, his only object seems to be to pry into our affairs and make them known to his friend. I wish your Reverence had the same mistrust, so as not to put any confidence in him: do not desire to make use of such friends in this business. Leave it in the hands of God, for it is His affair, and His Majesty will accomplish it in His own good time. Do not hurry yourself, for thus you might do harm.

I assure your Reverence that Don Diego Mexia is a very good gentleman, who will perform what he says: and as he has determined to speak on the matter, his cousin is almost sure not to refuse him anything: be assured that what his cousin does not do for him, he will not do for his aunt. It is useless, then, to write to her, or to any other person, for they are very near relations; and the friendship of Don Diego Mexia is greatly to be esteemed. It is a good sign that the archdeacon has offered to present our request, for had he not fair hopes of succeeding, he would not have undertaken the commission. The business is now in very good training: do not hasten it, or be too anxious about it, for this might do more harm than good. Let us leave the management of it to Don Diego and the archdeacon.

I shall not fail to enquire here if there be any one who could make the request; and also if the dean can do anything in the matter. Madame Louisa will do all she can with him. I am delighted on seeing what a favourable turn the matter has taken; and this makes me believe the more that the foundation will be very pleasing to God, since He has done everything without our having contributed anything thereto, for neither the establishment, nor the permission to say mass, is in our power. It is, however, a great thing that we have a house; and sooner or later we shall obtain leave to say mass. If the Nuncio had given leave, the business would soon have been accomplished. May our Lord grant him health, for we stood in need of him. Father Tostado does not lose courage; but I am afraid the Nuncio will not make use of him.

With regard to the affair at Salamanca, Father Juan de Jesus is so ill with the quartan ague, that I know not how he can do anything, nor does your Reverence mention in what way the Religious can be useful. With respect to the college there, let us begin with what is necessary, viz. to obtain leave from the Nuncio: had he given it the matter would have been finished; but if we make a false step in the beginning, then everything goes wrong. The object of the bishop, is, in my opinion, to find some one to replace Señor Juan Dias, of whose imprisonment he had heard. But I am sure our Order does not allow our Religious to act for others, and I think it is not proper: and even though this could be done, what good could be effected, since they would have to leave in less than two months? Such a proceeding would only serve to provoke the bishop. Besides, how do we know if our Father would succeed in this matter? They might, perhaps, wish them to aim at great perfection and mortification, and this might not be suitable for such persons: indeed, I know not if the bishop would be pleased with the Religious, should they undertake the office.

I assure your Reverence there is more to do than you imagine, and perhaps we shall lose more than we gain. I think it is not very advantageous for our Order to have Religious to act as confessors for others, and the bishop does not wish them to be such. The world should know them only as hermits given to contemplation, and not as persons running here and there to confess women of that character. I think people would be scandalized, even though the Religious had no other object but to draw them from their evil life.

I mention all these difficulties, in order that your Reverence may consider them well, and see what is best to be done. In this point I submit my judgment to yours, which is so much superior to mine. Your Reverence may allow Doctor Padilla and Señor Juan Diaz to read my letter, because I know nothing more than what I have written to you. We shall always be sure of having the bishop’s leave. Without that I have little confidence in Señor Don Teutonio5 as a negotiator. I know his good-will, but I am certain he has but little influence.

I am expecting I shall have to go to Madrid, in order to give life to the project of a foundation there, for I am a good negotiator when there is occasion: (if you do not believe this, inquire of my friend Valdemoro).6 I should be glad to make a foundation there, and I should be sorry if we did not succeed through want of using our endeavours, and making use of the means that might enable us to succeed. I often wished to have a convent in that city, because of its proximity to the court. I am pleased that the other design is given up of founding a house at Salamanca, for at present I see no probability of succeeding. Should the worst come, the foundation would be better at Malagon; and Madame Louisa has a great desire to go there.

In the course of time she will bestow many charities upon us; and in the neighbourhood there are many small towns, in which there is abundance of food. This will serve as a good excuse to give up the other house, for people will say we have transferred it to Malagon, and they will not know you have abandoned it altogether: they may fancy you will return to it again, when the house is built, for it does not look well to take a house to-day, and to leave it to-morrow.

I gave Don Gerónimo the letter which I wrote to Don Diego Mexia. He will forward it, together with another that was sent for Count de Olivares. I will write to him again when I see it necessary. I hope your Reverence will take care to refresh his memory; for I assure you, once more, that if he told you he would undertake the task and speak to the archdeacon about it, you may consider the matter as accomplished, since his word can be depended upon.

I have just received a letter from him about a young person to whom he begs I will give the habit, and the mother of the Father Visitor speaks very well of her. Would to God that those whom we refuse had the same good qualities as this person seems to have: we should then not fail to receive them. While I am now writing, I have thought I should not do wrong were I to say something to Don Diego respecting this other affair, under pretext of speaking to him about the young woman, and recommend it again to his care: this I shall certainly do. Will your Reverence please to give him this letter, and may God be ever with you. I have written such a long letter, as if I had nothing else to do; I have not written to the prior, because I have so many other letters to send off; and also because the good father may consider this as written to him. Give my very kind regards to Father Padilla: I praise God for the good health he enjoys. May His Majesty be ever with your Reverence. I will endeavour to procure the writing, even though I should be obliged to speak to Valdemoro, and I cannot express myself more strongly, for I don’t believe he will do anything for us. This is the Feast (of the eleven thousand7) Virgins.

Your Reverence’s unworthy Servant,


P.S. Before Diego arrived, I received the other letters from your Reverence. I beg you would send by the first opportunity this letter, addressed to our father (Gracian): it is to obtain permission. I have told him nothing about the business, but I trust your Reverence will do so.

In order that you may see how much more active my nuns are than your Reverence, I send you a few lines written by Mother Annie of Jesus, Prioress of Veas. Well, you see she has found a good house for our fathers of Peñuela. She has given me great pleasure. I’ll engage your Reverence would not have done the business so quickly! She has given the habit to a young lady, who has brought for her dowry seven thousand ducats. She is soon to receive two others, who have as great a fortune as the former. A lady of rank, niece to Count de Tendilla, has also taken the habit. She has brought with her a great quantity of plate, consisting of candlesticks, table services, reliquaries, crosses, and many other valuable things which it would take too long to mention. But a law-suit is now going on, as you will see by these letters. I trust your Reverence will consider what is to be done in the matter. Perhaps it would be the best to speak of it to Don Antonio, and to convince him that the height of the grates, while useful to us, cannot be injurious to them. In a word, see what can be done in this matter. May His Majesty be ever with your Reverence.

1 “Dènos buenos talentos.”

2 Father Gracian.

3 Those who did not adopt the reform.

4 He was prior of the Carmelites at Avila, and was greatly opposed to the Saint’s reform.

5 This person afterwards became archbishop of Evora.

6 These words must be spoken in irony.

7 Not in the Spanish.

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